The banning of the Russian channel Dohzd (TV Rain) in the Baltics has come as something of a surprise.
A standard bearer for independent broadcasting in its home country, it lived a charmed life until its luck finally ran out following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Forced to shut shop, it found a new home in neighbouring Latvia and more recently was also able to open a studio in Amsterdam.
However, earlier this week the Latvian Security Service (VDD) announced that it had begun examining statements made during a TV Rain news broadcast as they raised suspicion about the channel providing assistance to occupying Russian forces in Ukraine. The following day the Latvian regulator NEPLP went one step further by revoking TV Rain’s licence from December 8 on the grounds of national security and public order.
NEPLP outlined a series of violations that TV Rain had committed in recent months. They included failing to provide a Latvian language soundtrack in its broadcasts (as was required under the terms of its permit), showing Crimea as part of Russia in a map, referring to Russian forces as “our army” and appealing for help for those who had been conscripted.
TV Rain responded by calling the map of Crimea a mistake and firing the journalist who had made the comments about the Russian army.
As an interesting side note, and one that hasn’t been widely mentioned, TV Rain was also banned in Ukraine back in January 2017 for repeatedly referring to Crimea as part of Russia.
Perhaps not surprisingly, NEPLP’s decision has been criticised in some quarters, with Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a long-time supporter of the channel, even referring to it as shameful. However, it has found support in others, with Lithuania and Estonia, for instance, also deciding to ban TV Rain.
Although the channel has the right to appeal the bans, certainly in Latvia and most probably also the two other countries, they are clearly a blow. TV Rain nevertheless has proved to be resilient over the years and is likely to survive this latest setback.
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